Nome | Unalakleet
Birth of my name
I was born in Kodiak. My dad was working there at the time. Unfortunately, my father’s mother died in a car crash the day before I was born, which made my mother go into labor and have me. And so I have her exact same name--Josephine Elizabeth Stiles--and she’s buried in Anchorage. So I go visit her grave, and it says, “Josephine Lee Stiles." ...Kinda weird! But, we moved from Kodiak as soon as that happened, and moved to Anchorage. And my dad had a homestead. His parents were homesteaders back in the day.
Before Outsiders Came To Alaska...
My great-grandfather was the last chief of Unalakleet: Chief Nashaluk. In 1867, he made the decision as the chief to allow [the missionary Axel Karlson and] the Christian followers of the Swedish Covenant Church into the village and practice. After that, things kind of went in the way of the religion, the Covenant religion... and basically things changed from there. That’s where the Covenant Church was born and became active in Western Alaska mostly...We have a Covenant Church here in Nome, and there’s one in White Mountain, Elim. You know, there’s Lutherans up in Teller and Wales, but down by Unalakleet and Shaktoolik, they have Covenant Churches. I'm not quite sure of the history really... I just know the fact that [my great-great-grandfather] was the last chief, and that he allowed the Christians into the village.
"My mother is from Unalakleet, and my father is from Louisiana. So I feel like I've had the best of both worlds. I feel very blessed and fortunate."
From Chapel To a three act play
I went to Covenant High School in Unalakleet. It was a private Christian high school that operated from 1955 to 1984. Back before there was a school in each community in Alaska, there were boarding schools. This one was in Unalakleet, and it was with the Covenant Church. ... Every day we had Bible class. Fridays were days for when the whole school would get together and have chapel--those were the fun days of course. ... But it was such a great school, and prepared everybody for the future. It had a lot of arts, which was really cool. We had declamatory contests, we had choir, and every senior class had to produce a three-act play.